From the moment the Jets signed Antwan Barnes on March 19, his placement in the defensive puzzle has been clear.
"My role is just to get after the passer," the seventh-year linebacker said. "That's been my role since they got me here and I understand that, so I'm just coming in and doing that."
It's a role that Barnes has proven to be more than capable of fulfilling. Despite just five starts and limited playing time throughout his NFL career, he has 23.5 sacks. He's just two seasons removed from recording 11 sacks with the San Diego Chargers, the first and only time that he played in all 16 games.
The Jets hope the veteran LB will be able to repeat the number of games played in that career-best 2011 season. For now, however, they'll be asking him to contribute as a fresh body coming off the bench.
"I don't think starting was part of it," Barnes said about signing with the Jets. If someone goes down, or when his number is called to give someone a breather, he's ready to do what he does best.
"Just going out there and getting after the passer," he said. "If I have to drop in coverage, drop in coverage. Make no mental mistakes, and go out there and be a Jet."
He used training camp to improve his overall game, not narrowing his focus to just one or two aspects.
"I tried to improve on everything," he said, "and just got better at my craft and just got better with Rex [Ryan]'s scheme. I worked on being a better pass rusher, a better run protector, a better teammate, everything."
While many first-year Jets struggle with learning Ryan's defense, Antwan Barnes has an advantage of having played under his head coach before. Ryan served as Barnes' defensive coordinator in Baltimore during the 2007 and '08 seasons.
"Once I came in here," Antwan said, "the scheme and all of the name calls were the same so when I came in, that light just turned back on."
Mark Sanchez is happy to know that he's out of harm's way, as he'll watch one of the league's effective pass rushers go after any quarterback *not *wearing green and white.
"I know Rex was fired up about getting Barnesy in here," Sanchez said. "That's another big pickup for us that can help our pass rush."